Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY water/sand tables

Ellie loves water. This is just a fact. She loves playing in sprinklers, the pool, the bath, Marah's water dish, the bird bath, puddles, the sink...anything with water, the child loves.

Clearly we need a water table.

Clearly I am not spending $40+ on a plastic table, much less $100+ for a wooden one.

I found this lovely tutorial via Pinterest. I pretty much followed it to a T, but here is a recap with some clarifications.

  • Sterlite 41-quart underbed box ($9 at Wal-Mart)
  • 1x3 lumber 
    • I got the cheapest stuff. I'd recommend going a step up or getting a slightly larger cut. My wood was soft and I had to be very careful not to split it -- even if I drilled pilot holes.
    • You'll need 3 8' pieces (mine were about $4 each at Lowe's)
  • Screws (I used 6x1.5" wood screws for most of the pieces, but shorter 1" screws for where the legs attach to the long side pieces)
Step 1. Ask one of the nice Lowe's employees to cut your wood for you. Yes, you can do it yourself, but they will do it for free or very cheap. It is way worth it. You need:
  • 3 pieces that are 33 3/4" (long sides and bottom brace)
  • 4 pieces that are 16 5/8" (short sides and braces)
  • 4 pieces that are 22" (legs -- can adjust if you want taller or shorter)
This of course is only applicable if you use the same box I did.

Step 2. Build your frame. Make sure the short pieces are on the outside of the long pieces.

Step 3. Add legs to the outside, overlapping the two pieces.

Step 4. Add an extra short piece between the legs on each side as a brace. I used a piece of the same wood as a spacer. 

Step 5. Place the last long piece on the bottom, screwing it into the side braces you just added. 

Step 6. Put your Sterlite box inside! Plus, you can still use the lid.


I liked it so much, I made two! One is for water and one for sand (but one will go to our friends who are staying with us this summer, and I'll just eventually store the other bin underneath).

EDIT: Here's the first go of the water table. We ended up filling them both up. The kids loved it (big surprise, right? It's hot and water is just awesome.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Playroom shelf labels

Oh, what? I found a project on Pinterest? Weird.

I wanted to use this binder clip idea for organization in Ellie's playroom:

Since I've set up rotation bins on Ellie's toys, my idea was to laminate labels and then Velcro them to the binder clips, so I could swap out tags as the toys rotate. The tags had both a photo of the toy and the word, to let Ellie be able to match the item and the picture, and be exposed to some language.

However, they were too tall, and every time I pulled a bin off the shelf, it would flip the tag off. Ellie also quickly discovered she could pull the tags off and run around with them.

Here was attempt #1:

You can see the problem, right?

So I made a few changes and came up with this:

I mod-podged (what is the past tense of that??) fabric onto the binder clips (another parenthetical note, this may not have been the best option; it worked but it is STIFF and hard to open those clips!). I made the labels a quarter of page and laminated them, then secured them to the inside of each shelf.

I also decided to use the small labels I originally made on the bins, so we knew what was inside (since you can't see the labels under the bins).

Here's the whole shebang:

I do like the little pop of color that the binder clips add. And how lucky was I that Ikea made a lampshade the EXACT same colors as the bins I got from Target??

Lest you get the wrong idea, by the way, here is the other side of my playroom. Let's be honest -- this what it looks like most of the time. But hey, maybe the organization will help?

EDIT: I've since seen that spray adhesive and the no-fray stuff is supposed to work well to cover binder clips. I'd probably give that a go. The mod podge worked but not perfectly. 

On a more important note, here is Ellie actually USING these labels to put away her toys!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tot time: ice, salt and food coloring; shaving cream; flour paint

I've started doing "tot time" with Ellie and two of her little friends (who are both second kids). This week, we had a fourth little one as well (and her mommy, which gave me the courage to tackle some serious messy activities!).

We did three activities with the toddlers, who are 15 months, 17 months, 18 months and 28 months.

Ice + salt + food coloring
This is really neat. I would love to do it with older kids who understand more of the science -- but this kept the kiddos busy and interested for nearly half an hour!

I froze a sheet of ice overnight on a baking pan. Each kid got a scoop and got to add salt to the ice and stir it around. I added random drops of food coloring and just let them go to town.

As the ice started to melt and crack, the food coloring went deeper into the ice and mixed differently. The kids LOVED it.

Oh, as you can tell from the pictures, they all had a little taste sample as well.

Shaving cream
Next, we sprayed a ton of shaving cream into two other pans. I dropped some more food coloring in and again, just let them experiment.

Wow. They clearly enjoyed this one. I think Ellie and William were having a subtle competition over who got to cover more skin in shaving cream.

Ellie was convinced she'd win.

Flour paint
The last one we did was flour paint. Ellie and William played with it for a few minutes, but this was nearly an hour into these activities and I think all the kids were getting tired. I'd try this again with brushes, sponges, etc., and different kinds of paper. I just made a quick mix, eyeballing the ratio. Thinner definitely worked better than thicker!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reading fort

My amazing momma came into town this week to watch Ellie and help me get some unpacking and projects done around the house since Ryan was working 60+ hours this week.

I really, really wanted to build Ellie a reading fort in her room after seeing this pin. We tackled it blind (no pattern, no solid plan) and ended up with something I LOVE. It took until Plan G or so, but I love it. Here's our final solution:

We first tried a hula hoop, and that was pretty much a disaster. We couldn't get it to hang right -- it would fall one way or the other, and looked really messy.

So we ditched that plan (sorry, Pinterest!) and tried something totally different. I like how this one is more tailored and more open, since she's only 18 months old!

The curtains are hung from a rod going diagonally across the corner of the room. We draped her crib skirt over the rod in the front, then secured it all the way around. As she gets older, if she wants it more enclosed, I can add more curtain rods to the sides with more curtains.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how she'd react. She loves making forts right now, but this was something kind of different for her room! But when she got back (Ryan took Ellie to Ballwin Days for a daddy-daughter date), she immediately ran to the little chair and started playing hide-and-seek with the curtains. She LOVES this reading fort (thank goodness, after all that work)!